Water and sanitation upgrades in pipeline

Every winter Overcome Heights informal settlement is flooded.

Measures have been put in place to counteract the impact of the rain Cape Town experiences in winter as well as long-term upgrades of water and sanitation infrastructure.

Earlier this month the City of Cape Town’s sanitation and stormwater departments carried out some proactive interventions to protect residents and their homes from possible flooding – especially those living in informal settlements.

Southern Mail has reported extensively on the impact of flooding in communities like Overcome Heights, Vrygrond and other areas.

Jet vacuum trucks are being used to remove roots, litter, sand and other obstacles that cause blockages in the sewer system in Vrygrond.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis visited Vrygrond while teams were busy with the operation and asked that residents also do their part by protecting stormwater infrastructure and by being aware of the risks of building structures below the winter flood lines.

Before the end of June, the City’s sanitation teams will jet clean 100 kilometres of pipe in the most flood-prone parts of the city – a key part of preparing the wastewater system for the rainy winter months. The sewer spill reduction plan was allocated about R152 million for sewer line jetting and over-pumping.

Mr Hill-Lewis said stormwater drains, ponds, canals and gullies in flood prone areas were also being cleaned by the teams from Urban Mobility directorate.

He said Disaster Risk Management teams would also visit all areas with high numbers of informal structures below winter flood lines, and therefore most at risk of flooding, to distribute information pamphlets to warn residents about the risks.

“I joined in this awareness campaign, loud hailing in the Vrygrond area to get the winter readiness message out,” said the mayor. “In winter there are a number of areas and roads that get flooded, especially in low-lying areas, and where stormwater inlets and infrastructure are blocked.”

He encouraged residents to ensure that they do not burden the stormwater system by dumping waste drains.

Community worker Fawzia Cassiem hopes the City’s plans come to fruition and bring about some relief in the dire winter months.

“This has been an issue for us for many years where we had to put in our own measures but even that didn’t stop the flooding. I hope this is the answer to our problems because we have been begging the City for help over the years and nothing has worked. We want houses but in the meantime we need more help because nothing so far has solved the problem.”

The City aims to spend R1.6 billion on water and sanitation infrastructure this coming financial year alone.

This amount includes R406 million for the replacement of the Cape Flats Main Sewer, R755 million for the replacement and upgrading of pipes in the city’s sewer network, and R300 million for the replacement and upgrading of pipes on water network.

“We will double our pipe replacement to 50 kilometres this year, and in 2023 we will double it again to 100 kilometres. We will spend four times more than we did last year on pipe replacement,” said Mr Hill-Lewis.

Of the R152 million allocated to the sewer spill reduction plan, about R30 million will be used to buy new vehicles, R20 million will be spent on pump stations to ensure these facilities receive necessary security upgrades and replacement of electrical components and R41 million will be used to replace additional sewer and water pipes.

What you can do

Residents can help to reduce flood risk by doing the following:

  • Clear out drainage systems on properties.
  • Raise the floor level of a structure so that it is higher than the natural ground level.
  • Make sandbags.
  • Dig trenches around the house to divert water from the house.
  • Report blocked drains, intakes and illegal dumping. Illegal dumping in the stormwater canals and sewers make flooding worst.
  • Don’t dump illegally, rather use the City’s solid waste services to get rid of waste or take their recyclables, garden greens and builders rubble to our drop-off facilities.
  • Check for illegal stormwater-to-sewer cross-connections on your properties, where water is channelled from roofs, gutters, and paved or hard yard surface areas into sewer drains. Ingress of rainwater and items such as litter, material, builders rubble, fats, sanitary ware, cause sewers to overflow especially when it rains.
  • Waterproof roofs, clear gutters and remove dead tree branches.
  • Do not leave an open flame unattended as the risk of fires during winter especially is significant.

Emergency number

In an emergency or flooding call the City’s public emergency communication centre on 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 from a cellphone.